St. Vincent, Pink Mountaintops, NOMO, more: Really Quick Spins
St. Vincent - "Actor"
"I can't see the future but I know it's got big plans for me," Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) sings on "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood." It seems like one of those lines thrown in there just for reviewers to latch onto and hey, I'll play. It's easy to predict big things for Clark based on her second album because it manages to hit that current indie sweet spot of orchestral songs that just sound so pretty. And smart. And Clark immediately jumps to the head of the honors class with "Actor." She's got a very inviting voice -- she never overdoes it, the subtlety is key -- and her songs have an almost-ambient quality but there's also some meat there. That means you can listen to "Actor" as Sunday morning crossword puzzle background music, but it's also a bit of a mini-headphone masterpiece, with little details emerging over repeated listens. Both your mom and hipster friends should dig this one.
St. Vincent - "The Strangers"
Pink Mountaintops - "Outside Love"
Bands I Love, Part 1: Frontman Stephen McBean's other band, Black Mountain, gets more love and the Coldplay opening slots but this is where it's at. It's less heavy, more airy, resulting in some blissfully stoned hippie jams that make the right use of modern technology. So you've got your acoustic guitars, many voices singing in unison, harmonica, but you also have some electronic washes that make everything just feel so ... melty. This is laying on the grass in the dark music. "And I Thank You" serves as the album's centerpiece, McBean's lazy drawl on top of a bunch of female backing vocals, some slide guitar and it slowly works itself up to ... not too much. It just floats along, like the best Spiritualized song in a decade. This band is really good. Trust me.
Pink Mountaintops - "While We Were Dreaming"
NOMO - "Invisible Cities"
NOMO is best experienced live -- the eight-piece Afrobeat/funk/psych/jazz/Krautrock band from Michigan puts on one of best shows you'll see, a blur of hot horns, propulsive beats and just the right amount of thumb piano -- but this album does a mighty fine job of replicating that experience. "Banners on High" manages to fit all of the band's influences into four tidy minutes, starting with a hypnotic, distorted thumb piano groove before the gurgling synths start up, followed by the horn section, ending up as some hazy almost-improv. "Bumbo" is even more of a head-spinner, swirling horns crossing paths somewhat randomly, but very effectively, which sort of sums up the album -- there's always a lot going on, sometimes it seems on the verge of chaos, but it always comes together, usually in a pretty thrilling manner.
NOMO - "Invisible Cities"
(Double Dagger, Mika Miko, the Vaselines and Akron/Family, after the jump.)
Double Dagger - "More"
Bands I Love, Part 2: I've pretty much run out of good things to say about Double Dagger at this point. Here, here, here, here. But the post-everything Baltimore trio's third album, "More," only makes me a bigger fan. It's hard to think of too many new things to do when you work with only the most basic elements -- voice, bass, drums -- but Double Dagger has managed to up the ante. It's not full-throttle all the time, which makes those eventual explosions on songs like "Vivre Sans Temps Mort" and "Half-Life" even more effective. No band has a better grasp of dynamics than Double Dagger. But the highlight is the most conventional song of the bunch, "The Lie/The Truth," which has the most fist-pumpingly awesome chorus you'll hear all year.
Double Dagger - "The Lie/The Truth"
Mika Miko - "We Be Xuxa"
Bands I Love, Part 3: There's a song on this album by the all-girl L.A. punk quintet called "Turkey Sandwich." The chorus consists of two them yelling, "I want a turkey sandwich!" Yes, this is a band for me. When I wrote about/interviewed them at SXSW last year I said: "Mika Miko is a perfect band. That doesn't make them the greatest band. But there's not a single thing you'd want to change about them." And that remains true. They play slightly funky party punk, lots of shouting, they speed through most songs in two minutes then charge into another one. Don't look for stylistic variety or deep thoughts -- this one is in the fine tradition of bedroom pogo albums.
Mika Miko - "I Got a Lot (New New New)"
The Vaselines - "Enter the Vaselines"
Another one of those deluxe reissues of an album that you probably already have if you ever wanted it, with a bunch of extras that you don't really need. The original album remains a unique touchstone of indie pop, with it's decisively twee arrangements, random bursts of noise and the sexually suggestive lyrics of songs like "Rory Rides Me Raw" and "Monsterpussy." The live cuts on the bonus disc are even more ramshackle and perverted (check unreleased song "Rosary Job") and make for a neat curiosity, but like most live albums, it's not something you'll find the need to revisit too often. Still, that batch of 19 songs on the first disc remains one of the most unimpeachable collections of gleeful, amateur/underground pop songs around.
The Vaselines - "Son of a Gun"
Akron/Family - "Set Em Wild, Set Em Free"
There used to be something both intriguing and bizarre about Akron/Family, the way the band would veer from lazy, backporch folk to 15-minute-long psych-noise freakouts to hyperactive a cappella. A lot of that variety is still there -- "The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen" is a pretty, fingerpicked acoustic ditty, "Gravelly Mountains of the Moon" is nearly eight minutes of screaming feedback, "They Will Appear" has some of those multi-voice shoutalongs -- but it just sounds more streamlined and safer now. A lot of the band's appeal was that it was living on the edges of these sounds, but now they've moved closer to the middle and it's passable, at times enjoyable, just not as exciting.
Akron/Family - "River"
By David Malitz |
May 7, 2009; 3:27 PM ET
Really Quick Spins
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